Today’s Supreme Court order granting four weeks’ reprieve to Boollywood star Sanjay Dutt has made one thing very clear – not all are equal before the law in our country. If the law gives a non-descript person one treatment and a millionaire actor another, though both have been held guilty of the same crime, then there is most definitely something seriously wrong with the way our judiciary imparts justice.
As it is, Sanjay Dutt’s original sentence of six years was reduced to five years on account of his case being removed from under TADA, the provisions of which he was originally booked under. He now stands convicted under only the Arms Act.
53-year-old Dutt, who was directed to surrender by April 18, urged the Apex Court to allow him to finish shooting of his films which, according to the actor, will take at least 196 days. This is a matter of over Rs 278 crore riding on seven movies.
Zaibunissa Kazi, who had also asked for more time before being imprisoned for her role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, received no such reprieve. The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the appeals of the 70-year-old woman (along with two others).
Curiously enough, the Court said the main reason cited in the petition for extension of time was the crores of rupees involved. The producers whose money this is have been aware of Sanjay Dutt’s run-ins with the law since 2007, when the first court rulings came. Zaibunissa and others however, applied for more time over reasons relating to age and ill health and their petitions were still rejected.
What is more predictable? Investments worth Rs 278 crore; or medical illness?
As we have argued before, an actor’s financials should be of no concern to a system of law that is, by definition, supposed to treat all citizens alike. What’s more? Dutt’s so-called ‘plight’ is by no means comparable to the others who have been held guilty by the law of the land.
Consider, for a moment, the message that is being sent out by the Court; and the inevitable questions that follow: Are the poor less deserving of compassion than the rich? Are actors somehow more important to society than the aam admi? Should we all stop expecting fair treatment from the law of the land?
By going soft on Sanjay Dutt, the Supreme Court has been unfair.